The stroll was what really got to me.
We first witness the Emmy, Golden Globe, and Grammy Award-winning singer attempting to cross a metropolitan street in the movie Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie. Fox excitedly begins the work despite the fact that the consequences of Parkinson’s disease have significantly altered his balance. He moves ahead with a lurching stride that gives the impression that he may suddenly spin off into an unanticipated direction.
A movement coach assistant standing behind him softly urges him to take it slow and centre himself before each stride. When a lady wearing a face mask approaches and says hello, Fox turns to greet her but is caught in his own legs and collapses.
The joke is dropped by Fox when the assistant assists him in standing up and the admirer inquires as to his well-being: “You knocked me off my feet.”
The greatest parts of Still, a picture of a gifted and well-respected actor who perseveres despite Parkinson’s disease steadily robbing him of many of the things he loves most, are brought together by that type of personal drama.
It weaves together reenacted footage and excerpts from Fox’s extensive corpus of TV and film work to recreate significant events in the actor’s life, and at times it is a flashy film. The story starts in 1990, when Fox suddenly became aware of an uncontrollable tremor in his pinkie finger.
In that scene, Oscar-winning director Davis Guggenheim (of An Inconvenient Truth) combines footage of a body double grabbing his own hand in a hotel bed with scenes from other Fox movies’ fight scenes to create a montage that depicts the actor’s emotions as he watched the limb, which appeared to have a mind of its own.
Despite being one of Hollywood’s top performers at the moment, Fox states in voiceover, “I was in an acid bath of fear and professional insecurity.” “There was trembling, a message from the future.”
Telling a terrible truth without showing sympathy Still manages to achieve something remarkable: it pulls viewers into the difficult reality of Fox’s Parkinson’s existence without making him the victim of sympathy or martyrdom.
The standard Hollywood celebrity biographies are provided: Fox was born and reared in Canada, dropped out of high school, and relocated to Los Angeles as a teenager to pursue acting. Keaton in the hit NBC comedy Family Ties, a part that would start his career.
Here, Guggenheim does his magic once again by dramatising how Fox shot both films simultaneously in 1985, placing himself on a never-ending cycle of work, utilising behind-the-scenes footage from both Family Ties and Back to the Future. He didn’t realise the movie was particularly good until his agency complimented him on Back to the Future’s popularity.
But all of that showbiz stuff serves only as the stage for the movie’s most moving scenes. The video truly takes off when Fox turns to the camera and talks candidly about his life, connecting with viewers via the camera as if he were speaking just to each of us.
We watch as he works with a speech therapist to narrate audiobooks from his four published works, including Lucky Man: A Memoir from 2002. He talks of falling and breaking multiple bones in his face. As Guggenheim presents video of Fox favouring his left hand in various scenarios, we see him struggle to apply toothpaste to a toothbrush and discover that he sought to disguise his worsening Parkinson’s symptoms while working on films and appearing on TV talk programmes in the 1990s.
And Fox is open about how he dealt with his problems by working hard and trying to maintain sobriety while his wife Tracy Pollan attempted to keep him honest about his problems. “My first two years of sobriety [were] like a knife fight in a closet,” he says in the movie. I wasn’t dealing with things.
Disclosing fears without giving into them
What emerges is a picture of a guy who is courageous enough to face his anxieties and resilient enough to overcome them. He makes it clear that he wants to avoid sympathy and live as independently as he can, but he is realistic about how much harder life is becoming as time goes on.
Fox confesses that Parkinson’s disease has stolen a lot from him, but he also acknowledges that it has given him something.
“I’ve always been in motion, which is the thing about motion with me…Deep into the movie, he states, “I’ve always relied on movement to not just get me from place to place, but to express myself.
“I discovered that I couldn’t live a life of stillness. I was unable to be in the moment. Prior to discovering this, I was not there in every minute of my life. It has jolted me awake.